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I’d Like a Do-Over

August 2, 2011

Well that was a complete disaster.

The day started innocently enough. We should have known from the moment we tried to leave our hotel in Seattle Monday morning and had to spend 45 minutes jamming all our stuff into the car while leaving enough room for three people, only to have it all repeatedly topple over onto person #3 (that would be The Hamster) every time we made a right turn. But we didn’t know. We figured it was a momentary setback. We pressed on.

Things were going reasonably well for a little while. We got to Mount Rainier National Park right on schedule. The mountain was stunning from every angle.

The surrounding scenery was even more gorgeous, with waterfall after waterfall, each one more incredible than the one before.

Then, another little clue of what was to come: we almost got a parking ticket outside the Paradise Visitors Center. But we got to the car moments before the park rangers plastered it with a large sticker telling us what jerks we were. We thought it was a sign of our good fortune. Oh, we were so young and foolish back then.

Done with Mount Rainier, I squeezed in the back seat and let Sam sit in the front so he could avoid being whacked by falling coolers, and we told the GPS to bring us to Mount St. Helens. It obeyed. But then, a good 40 minutes into the trip, we saw a big sign on the highway saying that Mount St. Helens was a different way. We decided to ignore the GPS and obey the sign. This was a huge mistake. Volcanic eruption huge.

What I knew was that you can enter Mount St. Helens National Monument from the East or from the West; the GPS was sending us to the West entrance but the big sign sent us to the East. What I didn’t know, and what the big sign didn’t mention, was that the two entrances do not connect, and that only the West entrance leads to the observatory, and that the West entrance is accessible by normal highways while the East entrance is accessible only through exceptionally windy roads that go for miles and miles through a National Forest with no phone or Internet signal. An hour and change later, we arrived at a little viewing area, only to learn that the place we really wanted to go was completely on the other side of the park and the only way to get there was to go back the way we came and then drive for a couple more hours.

By this point it was 5:30 pm. Probably too late to get to the observatory before dark. But the road to the observatory was also the road to our next stop (Portland, OR), so we figured we’d do our best and see what happens. And that’s when things got worse.

A police car pulled up behind us, lights flashing. We pulled over. He sped by. He pulled over a different car. Whew! We got lucky. We drove past them. The cop motioned for us to pull over also. Then he chased us down. Not so lucky after all. It was a double ticketing. He didn’t buy our story about being lost on the way to Mount St. Helens. He gave us a ticket for speeding. He also said Sam was too young to be in the front seat and would have to sit in the back, according to Washington state law. Then he gave us directions to Mount St. Helens.

Now it was 7:30 pm. We had no chance. Defeated, we pulled into the first rest stop we saw and got set to make dinner: fresh halibut we’d bought Sunday and froze so we could grill it Monday night. The only problem was that it was still frozen when we took it out to put it on the grill. Not a little frosty—frozen solid. Well, at least the cooler did a good job. We grilled it anyway. It took almost an hour. We tried to laugh about our mistakes and misfortune. It wasn’t easy.

The only thing that really helped was Sam. He was fantastic. Better than fantastic. Sarah and I just wanted the day to be over already but Sam was dancing around the rest-stop picnic table, singing nonsense songs and having fun despite everything. For the first time in a few hours, we all smiled.

It was completely dark by the time we finished eating and squeezed back into the car to start looking for a place to spend the night, hoping Tuesday would be better.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Yehuda and Esther permalink
    August 2, 2011 2:02 pm

    Good to hear you still sounding upbeat after a difficult day. We are heading home today, can’t wait to see you guys when you get back. Tell Sarah that if she wants to join us for a meal, shabbos or otherwise she is more than welcome.

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